Expanding the racetrack 'doesn't make any sense'

June 05, 2005|by LARRY YANOS

Charles Town-based trainer David Walters believes there are more important items on the agenda at Charles Town Races & Slots than expanding the racetrack to 7 furlongs.

"It won't go away," Walters said of the constant discussions to expand the racetrack. "To me, it's a political issue. I don't see where it is going to better the track. There's more important things to worry about here. The horsemen don't want a 7-furlong racetrack unless someone presents a great master plan. I haven't seen one yet."

Walters, vice president of the Charles Town Division/Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, says his organization strongly opposes expansion of the racetrack because it would create too much "downtime" for the horsemen.


"The Charles Town track would be shut down for months and months and Shenandoah Downs is just not an option," Walters said. "It would take too much money and too much time to restore Shenandoah Downs to a training and racing facility. It just doesn't make any sense to even think about that."

Disregarding the 7-furlong discussions, Walters said the situation at the West Virginia racetrack would be vastly improved by tightening the claiming rule and adding at least one more state veterinarian.

"Everyone is concerned about the recent number of horses breaking down but the track surface isn't to blame and widening a few turns is not the complete answer," Walters said.

Here's a look at Walters' views concerning the claiming rule and the veterinarian situation at Charles Town:

· "When the track re-opened in the mid 1990s, the claiming rule was relaxed to encourage more owners and trainers to get into the business," Walters said. "I used to claim a horse and keep him from the racetrack 30 to 60 days to freshen him up. Now, you can claim a horse one day and run him back another. I call it 'one and done.' Owners and trainers are just trying to get one race out of their horses because they are going to be claimed again right away. These horses have a new home after every race. The claiming situation here is ridiculous."

Despite the attractive purse structure, Walters said most of the Charles Town-based horses are claimers that need extra care and attention.

"We're running our horses too close together, too much demand on them. That's a reason for all the breakdowns," Walters said. "They definitely need more time between starts."

· On the veterinarian issue, Walters says help is definitely needed.

"They say we have money to pay a second veterinarian, but it hasn't been done for one reason or another," Walters said. "We just have too many horses for one state vet. A track like Penn National has three or four vets, we continue to have just one. Some horses aren't getting looked at properly and getting pre-race evaluations. There's not enough time."

Walters added, "The breakdowns are a combination of horses being run too quickly and too many horses changing hands too often.

"They are always looking for just one more start," he said. "You used to turn horses out, not now. It's always the theory: 'Let the next guy worry about it.'"


Jimmy Hammond has resigned as racing secretary at Charles Town.

"Jimmy has worked for me since 1992 as a racing official and as a racing secretary and has done an excellent job," Charles Town Director of Racing Richard (Dickie) Moore said. "We hated to see him leave."

Duane Sowers will serve as the interim racing secretary.

· The 152nd Upperville (Va.) Colt & Horse Show will be held this week.

There will be two Grand Prix competitions: a $25,000 Welcome Stake and a $100,000 Budweiser-Upperville Classic on Friday.

The show is one of the oldest in the United States. The week-long event will attract more than 1,000 horse and rider combinations.

Upperville is located on Route 50.

For additional information, call 540-253-7400 or 540-592-3858.

For complete schedules and results, visit the Web site at

· Russell Baze has become thoroughbred racing's second jockey to reach 9,000 victories.

The 46-year-old Hall of Famer recorded the milestone this past Thursday when he rode Queen of the Hunt to a wire-to-wire, length victory in the eighth race at Golden Gate Fields in California.

Only retired Hall of Famer Laffit Pincay Jr. has more wins with 9,530.

Baze has led the nation in victories seven times and ranks No. 1 this year with 195 wins through Thursday. He has won 33 riding titles at Bay Meadows and 26 titles at Golden Gate Fields.

Baze was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, and began his career as a jockey in Washington state in 1974.

Larry Yanos is sports editor of The Daily Mail. He covers horse racing for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311, or by e-mail at

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